The Daily Gamecock

The first-year experience: Freshmen reflect on first semester at USC, face growing responsibilities

The Daily Gamecock interviewed 114 incoming freshmen this summer to get to know them before coming to USC. In September, we spoke with seven of the 114 freshmen to see how they were transitioning onto campus. 

Now, as finals are looming, those seven freshmen reflect on their first semester at USC.

Five of the freshmen said they felt like they have stepped out of their “honeymoon phase” with college, taking on more responsibilities and stressors with classes. 

“It just felt so easy at first, but now I feel like after we've already surpassed that section of introductory stuff in classes,” first-year biology student Saida Wade said. “Now it's more so like, ‘Okay, you're about to be like hitting the books like everything's about to start kicking in,’ especially with spring semester coming up.”

Wade was not the only one who was hit by the reality of classes. First-year exercise science student Sam Scifers said he realized how intense classes can be after receiving a 50% on a class project.

“Your teachers aren’t afraid to fail you — like if you fail, you fail,” Scifers said. “Nobody's really going to reach out and be like, ‘Hey, do you want an extra credit assignment? Hey, you know, I'll bump you up five points.’ It's your responsibility.” 

For others, the honeymoon phase ended when they were faced with questions about the future. First-year public health student Kendall McKnight said discussions surrounding topics of major, schedule change and housing for her sophomore year made her come to terms with reality. 

When things may seem overwhelming, first-year undecided student Liam Sullivan said he tries to not let the fears and responsibilities keep him down.

“I try not to get intimidated by situations or responsibilities in life because the intimidation doesn't help me,” Sullivan said. “99% of the time, it always ends up being okay. And so when you have that in the back of your head, that's sort of enough for me to know that no matter what happens, everything will be okay.”

Two of the freshmen interviewed said the honeymoon phase has not ended for them. First-year biology student Rishi Desai said he felt like his classes this semester were not as stressful as he expected, while first-year retail management student Maddie Lucius said she still feels like she is at summer camp.

“I don't think I want it to hit me because I've been having so much fun," Lucius said. "And time moves faster when you're having fun. I'm so like, afraid of like the four years creeping up on me, so I’m trying not to let it hit me that I’m in college." 

Despite having differences in their first semesters at USC, all seven freshmen have had their fair share of highs and lows. Wade said she feels like she has grown in her independence but can sometimes struggle with identity. 

“There's always this thought of, ‘Am I doing enough? Could I be doing more?’ whether it's being involved or even sometimes I question my major, like if I'm doing the right route, my interests, cause I know it can change, and I'm okay if it does, but I just — you know, you want to always feel like you're doing the right thing,” Wade said.

For a few of these freshmen, some lows come from day-to-day struggles. First-year mechanical engineering student Jackson Forrest said he dealt with a lack of focus on academics. Others like Lucius said they fought mental roadblocks that impacted getting their work done. 

“Sometimes I get one of these days where I'll just stay in my dorm room all by myself, and no one's there. And then, you know, your thoughts start to spiral out of control in your head,” Lucius said. “My problem is just figuring out how to get out of those lows, because usually I'll stay in them for a couple days.”

However, her growing in work ethic and submitting her assignments in a timely manner is something she said she is proud of. Lucius said she has also enjoyed being able to form new friendships and wants to continue making even more in the spring.

Desai and McKnight also said they hope to branch out more and get to know different people, with McKnight specifically wanting to explore more areas across campus.

“I'm hoping to expand the type of people I meet. I'm hoping to get more involved in my clubs and things like that because I feel like now as I get into the semester, I'm kind of still focus on my academics,” McKnight said. “I’m just hoping to find balance.”

The upcoming semester is also one filled with opportunity for these freshmen. Sullivan hopes to try new things like learning how to play a new instrument or sport. Forrest just wants to pass all of his classes. And Wade sees the opportunity to look back at her journey and be proud of the person she sees standing at the end of it all. 

“To be able to look back at freshmen year and feel like I know where I’m at, I know how to handle certain workloads or just friendships or different situations that I've encountered so far — I feel like it’s a good way of learning college in a sense,” Wade said.